Publication details [#63341]

Schuster, Michal, Irit Elroy and Ido Elmakais. 2017. We are lost: measuring the accessibility of signage in public general hospitals. Language Policy 16 (1) : 23–38.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher


Hospital signage is a critical element in the patients’ and visitors grasping of directions, instructions and warnings in the facility. In multilingual environments organizations need to make sure that the information is accessible in the languages of the people who consume their services. As part of a large-scale inquiry that explored the status of cultural competence in public hospitals in Israel (Elroy and Schuster 2016), this paper explored the signage in ten large hospitals. It evolved an “accessibility index”, a mathematical tool that quantifies the level of language accessibility of the hospital signage. According to the data, many geographical areas in the hospitals, as well as certain informational domains, show up in Hebrew only. A lack of clear and unified language policy concerning the nature and scope of multilingual signs in the healthcare system ends in loss of critical information for people speaking the minority languages. The further one walks into the hospital, the less accessible it becomes. Moreover, certain sign types, like behavior in emergencies, prohibition and information, are inaccessible for speakers of English, Arabic and Russian. The article concludes with policy and practical recommendations that will help policy makers to use linguistically accessible signage, thus allowing patients to orientate in the hospitals and make the best of their stay there.